Friday, 21 November 2014

Goodreads Gone?

The big move of the year for readers and writers is probably Amazon's takeover of Goodreads. I've not been following the news as as well as I should, obviously, but I have picked up one or two snippets and hints about this so decided to check it out. Alison Flood has an article, dated 13th April, on the subject in the Guardian. Link 
I have to say that I never really got to grips with Goodreads. I'm on it, but in a sketchy sort of way because I could never understand how the website worked. As of this week I confess to being puzzled as to why none of my covers for e-books are showing on the site. I'm sure they were there not so long ago, but perhaps its just paranoia on my part. Goodreads boasts 16 million subscribers, all of whom probably use the site happily enough, which in turn makes me feel an absolute dunce. 

Some say Goodreads could have become a competitor in online bookselling, either selling direct or directing users to a site other than Amazon, which was why Amazon stretched out a giant hand and grasped it. There those who think Amazon has a plan to rule the world. Most people seemed to be against  the move, but not all.

Hugh Howey (of self-published Wool fame) predicted "a lot of hand-wringing over the acquisition". but thought  there were "so many ways this can be good for all involved. I'm still trying to think of a way it could suck."

He thinks Amazon wanted the data behind the Goodreads scenes and will use the algorithms to improve  their tailored buying suggestions . The social networks that feed readers' habits are going to get stronger. The people who helped make Goodreads so good are going to get richer. And the people at Amazon are going to keep trying to get the right books in the hands of readers. Aha - there's the rub, or at least one of them. The people at Amazon are going to decide which are the right books Or am I misreading what Howey says? 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Unseasonable weather

A few of my blog friends appear to have given up on blogging in favour of other forms of social media, so I'm clearing out the attic, so to speak. No hard feelings. I've enjoyed their words of wisdom for a year or two, and if they come back on-stream, no doubt I'll find them again.

As I find new and interesting blogs, I'll add them to the list. Talking of changes - if I could discover how to put new photos up in the Jen's Holiday pics feature (on the sidebar) I'd refresh that too, but as of this moment I have no idea how I managed to get them up in the first place.

I know the north American continent  has snow already, but we still have temperatures that are unseasonably warm. I tend to dress for the season rather than the actual weather, and that is proving a huge mistake. I seem unable to adjust to going out in November without a sweater or a fleece. Madness.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Bathroom blues

How long does it take for a book to dry out? Anyone know? I was reading in the bath the other night, fell asleep and woke up with half submerged book across my middle. It has been reclining beneath the bathroom radiator ever since and still feels twice its normal weight. I'm thinking about using a hairdryer to speed things up because I'll soon forget what the first half of the story was all about, and it wasn't an easy read.

In Life after Life characters die and then reappear alive in the next chapter which is strange enough, but there's an additional complication in that scenes leap about the decades and the reader gets views of the heroine at various ages but not in sequential order. I haven't yet figured out why the author has done this, hence the wish to get to the end of the book.

It is a typical November morning today. Damp, misty and dull. Not a lot of light, and probably one of the major reasons why people leave the UK and go and live where it is bright, clear and sunny all year round. Still, I say to myself, what is life without variety? I should hate to miss autumn and spring and leap straight from summer to winter, and vice versa.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Cover Issues

This the third cover I've put up for Viking Magic. For some reason this book is lagging behind the others and isn't attracting attention. There may be 101 reasons why from a poor cover to a whiny heroine, but since I've nothing to lose I thought I'd experiment.
The first cover was dramatic, perhaps, with the prow-beast head but maybe the pink background didn't gell very well with Vikings. First mistake. Secondly I went for a purchased photograph and thought the girl looked like the heroine of the story. It was only some time later that I saw John Locke had a cover using the self same portrait. Maybe that went against me.
So I decided on a third attempt. This one conveys the darkness and use of magic in the story of a girl fearful for her soul as well as her life. She is too desperate to be kind-hearted, but uses everything she can to avoid entrapment by the wicked magician.

Let's see if this cover makes any difference. If nothing else, it is an interesting experiment in use of covers.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Adventures and freezing at Downton

Took Tim for a walk down by the riverside this morning and amused myself taking pictures of cobwebs on the gorse bushes. Boy! Have those spiders been busy! Do they do it all in one night, or is it the work of several days? Walked on, turned back to the car and realised I no longer had my phone.

Horrors! Not only an expensive item, but a gift from dh! I got Tim out of the car again, clipped on his lead and set off at a great pace back to the point of taking pictures of cobwebs. I had a clear memory of the spot and found it easily. Fortunately no one else is stupid enough to go off in the long wet grass among gorse bushes taller than they are, and my phone was lying where I presume it had fallen out of my pocket. What a relief!

So now I am happy to sit, and Tim is happy to sleep after double the normal amount of exercise.

Watched the final Downton last night. No more until Christmas. What amazes me is that inside those huge rooms, gentlemen wear (I'm guessing here - vests?) shirts, waistcoats, and tweed jackets and trousers. Ladies on the other hand, waft about looking pale and lovely in thin silk and chiffon. Their white skin has a beauty we don't often see in these days of suntans and the delicate set of a long neck on pale shoulders has a lot to recommend it.

Then we go outside, and the gentleman heave a mackintosh or overcoat and hat on top of their tweeds. Lady Mary and the other ladies favour thin-looking coats that often don't close up to the throat. I shiver for them. Come evening, the men have jackets, stiff shirt fronts and sometimes waistcoats while the girls once more shiver in silk with bare arms,and throats. They sport long leather or silk gloves which they remove at the dining table. I can only assume they have Danmart underwear to keep them from  hypothermia.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Marketing blues

I wrote a great blog post, pressed the publish button and the darned thing disappeared. I hope this is not a sign of how my day is going to go. So I'll start again. Now my book is out in the big wide world, I'm contemplating how to get people to buy it. Marketing is the tool, say the Createspace experts.

Marketing, they tell me, is the process of communicating with the rest of the world and telling them about your book, making them want to buy it without doing any direct selling. Who is your target audience, they ask. Anyone who reads historical fiction, I say. Not good enough. Who are they? Where do they live? What age group, social class? What are their hobbies? Which newspapers do they read?

I shrug my shoulders. Haven't a clue. Anyone between the ages of 14 and 94 might read historical novels, and the only link between them is probably just that - they like historical fiction! (I had to pick numbers, but I'm sure there are people over 95 and under 14 who read historical fiction!)

There are lots of sites on the internet these days who do nothing but promote books. Some charge, and there are lots of warnings from authors who've paid hard-earned cash and been disappointed with the results. So I think I shall steer clear of such places. I'm not enamoured of the way Twitter is flooded overnight with promotional post which I assume originate in the USA. I whizz by them - as they come batches this is very easy to do. The general opinion seems to be that 1 tweet in 10 may mention your book as long as you are offering other contents on the other 9. That seems reasonable to me, and the same seems to operate on Facebook.

This time I've let everyone know (or I will have done shortly) that my book is available, and this is a first for me. I'm slowly investigating lists of promotional sites, and may yet come up with some goodies. I'll stick with my promotional yahoo groups and see what the results are like.

It's quite a game, this writing lark. I thought the writing was the hard part!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Publication Day

Any minute now, Abduction of the Scots Queen is going to be available in paperback at Amazon. It is already available in Kindle format. That means I am off the hook, free, able to ignore the PC for a while if I wish. Freedom, in other words. Yipppeeee!

Not that I would have missed the experience. Having Matho's story out there for everyone to read is a wonderful feeling after I've worked on it for so long. Some might say it's a coming of age story - how a young man goes off to try and earn fortune in the last few years of King Henry VIII's reign. Not that he and Henry ever meet. Henry never figures in the pages except as the man who bellows that he wants the Scots Queen in England so she can marry his son Edward. He has cogent reasons for that, but the story centres on Matho's experiences as he travels north across the border and runs smack bang into Lady Margaret Douglas. Characters include her father, Archibald Douglas, Marie de Guise, the Dowager Queen of Scots and Mathew Stewart, Lord Lennox.

Others might say it's a historical suspense story - will he or won't he succeed at the task he has set? Will he survive trying?

I don't think anyone will claim it is solely a romance, though there are two romance threads running through the story. For good or evil, Abduction is finally done!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Strictly, Lewis, Downton and Createspace

Soon I should be free of the Createspace thing that has dominated my life for the past fortnight. I have just submitted the third, or it might be the fourth attempt at a clean ms. Fingers crossed - I think this is almost it!
It will be a relief to get back to more normal pursuits for a while. Once Amazon has it up for sale I'll have to start the dreaded Promo work, but until then I can relax for a bit and enjoy other things. Such as Strictly Come Dancing, which was on last night. I think it is week five and I'm finding it is not so interesting as it used to be. There may be several reasons for this - one might be that I've had too much of a good thing and am simply bored. It might be that I do not recognise many of the so-called celebrities - that so overworked word these days. I don't want to watch girls - it is usually girls - who look as if they've just stepped out of ballet class. (Pixie Lot, anyone? Who is she?) I want to watch people like Steve Backshall who has a lot to learn and may be good, may be terrific, or maybe will have a disastrous night. The constant clapping, booing and hissing is turning Strictly into a juvenile arena and Tess has to take a lot of the blame for this. She is far too partisan these days - she's on the side of the contestants and appears to dislike the judges and their comments. Craig is the only one who gives an honest assessment. Darcey wants to be fair and encouraging, Bruno is usually fair
unless there is a very pretty girl or a handsome young man who takes his fancy and then he scores them high. Len usually sticks with his trademark seven unless he is in a grumpy mood, which he often is these days.

Lewis seemed a bit odd on Friday, though dh assures me it was me and not the programme. Watch it again, he advises, and you'll catch on. I prefer it in its two hour slots when I could settle down and really concentrate. Having one hour episodes a week apart means I forget all the clues in the previous segment, and then can't join in the detection. Thank goodness there's Downton to watch tonight, and double thank goodness it has found it way again after the first two episodes were fairly lacklustre. I think there will be a glass or two of wine to be had in chez Black this evening. Cheers!

Pictures taken on a walk on Friday. Good weather actually, though I photographed the worrying moments when we thought we were going to have to run for it!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Cobwebs and proof copies

My proof copy of Abduction of the Scots Queen arrived on schedule yesterday. I had such reluctance to open it in case I was going to be disappointed, but when dh opened the parcel, he was complimentary. I looked, and was pleasantly surprised. The glossy cover looks good. The text inside could maybe be a tad darker, but the size is OK.

I didn't start reading it until today. In the first 33 pages there are 7 corrections to make. I thought it was going to be perfect! What worries me now is how many more there will be as I read on - and will it be easy to do them? At least three of the faults are where the font has slipped from Garamond to Times New Roman and that might be difficult to change back.

So it is head down, post-its and orange marker pens to hand. I'm using a ruler to keep my attention on the line in question instead of flicking about. It's all work, work work, this writing game. We wouldn't do it if we didn't love it!

I've been using a pedometer (when I remember) as I walk the dog and keeping a record of the number of steps taken in a day. Soon I'm going to add them all up and frighten myself silly. Already today Tim and I have managed 6,500 steps and it is only midday. He'll want to go out again before nightfall. I feel so much fitter than I did before he came into my life. Another plus is feeling in tune with nature and seeing things I wouldn't have otherwise seen - such as the sun shining through a cobweb. A gorse bush down on the riverside was a network of cobwebs like this one, dotted with dew and shining like silver. Another day, a different time, no sun, and I couldn't see a single one.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Self-publishing and praise

Time to turn my attention to something new - or two things - Promotion and A New Story.

As autumn sets in here in Northumberland, the days are growing shorter and the nights longer. The days are still amazingly warm. Yesterday afternoon was 16.5 C and there are flowers blooming among the berries and fallen leaves. Last night I kept moving to a cool spot on the sheets and we have not had the heating on much at all yet, hence clammy towels in the bathroom, which I hate.

But the weather will change, as it always does, and indoor pursuits will become more important - and the radiators will be hot and towels cuddly and warm when I want them.
Promotion will be a necessity, now that I have a paperback out in public. (I haven't, yet, but it won't be long now, and I'm starting to think about what I should do.)

Some people have said I should have begun already, but there was no time. It seemed silly to put the book aside and work on promoting it! Much better to finish the book and get it published first. This, of course, is where traditional publishing wins out. While someone else worries about editing, covers and proofreading your book, you can be off and away doing other things. What a lovely thought. But I listen to authors saying how wonderful it is to have an editor to discuss things with and decide upon alterations and wonder how much of the story changes in those discussions. How big are the alterations? How much is then down to the author and how much to the editor? At least with my story I can only blame myself if it bombs - but on the other side of the coin,  I can take all the praise - if there should be any!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Createspace covers

Trying to  make a cover for my book in Createspace had me tearing my hair for a day or two because I got absolutely nowhere. I had ignored Cover Creator because I'd read somewhere on the internet that CC was crap and produced lousy covers.So there I was trying to load a PDF file and believe me I'm no computer geek. Nothing worked. I decided it would have to be Cover Creator or nothing, and after all this work I wasn't prepared to give up.

I turned to the Cover Creator Community files, and learned that there were many, many cover designs to choose from, and that everything would be formatted for me.
 I chose my design and hopefully uploaded the front cover. It proved remarkably easy, but the title ran off the very edge of the cover by one letter and guess what? I couldn't change it because the file was saved and locked.

Stalemate again. I contemplated going back to the beginning with my original photograph, and actually did half an hour's work on it before deciding it wasn't working as I wanted. The original cover was so much brighter and  well, just better.

Reading the instruction manual for Photoshop persuaded me I could unlock the file so I looked at it again, and had a bright idea. Carefully matching the background cover colour, I painted out the title and reloaded it at a slightly tighter level. I am pleased to report that it works. I loaded the front cover then the back cover and Cover Creator loaded the spine for me. It all looks fine to me. So now we're
on the last lap - check, check and double check before I click the final button. Moral of the story is - don't believe all you read on the internet - and don't give up!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Struggles with Createspace

They say Createspace is easy - well, I beg to differ.
The interior (ie the words of the story) was not a problem. All it takes is patience, an eagle eye and knowledge of the system. It will go easier next time, now I know what is required.

But the covers - mon Dieu! I don't even understand the instructions! And Amazon instructions are always somewhat odd.

I've found and downloaded the cover template. I have a front cover, a back cover and a spine waiting in Photoshop. How to transfer them to the Createspace template is the problem. I struggled all day yesterday and have nothing to show for it. There must be a set of clear, simple instructions somewhere, but I haven't found them. All this talk of layers, opacity, bleed and trim lines - not to mention 300 dpi and 40MB is too much....!

So I took a day off today, gave Tim a long walk and then went into town and had my hair done. Flicking through a copy of Hello, I saw  photo of Anna Wintour and  golly, she and I have the same hairstyle. She's had hers for years and mine is just reaching the stage of all one layer, but even so, its enough to make me grin.

Not so the thought of going back to Createspace tomorrow. A grimace is more the thing. Perhaps I'll hit lucky and muddle through. Wish me luck!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Editing for Createspace

Still plodding on with editing Matho for Createspace. If I write dialogue with a French accent, I wanted  the character Lennox drop his aitches and I represented this as follows: 'there is nothing 'e will do for you.' Sometime Createspace formatted it perfectly and sometimes it ignored the apostrophe and just printed the letter e. There's probably a reason, but I haven't figured it out. After three tries I rewrote the phrase and did not use a dropped aitch!

Otherwise it seems to be going well. I've removed a lot of unnecessary commas and corrected the occasional missing letter or word, but on the whole things are proceeding well. The trouble with editing is it seems to go on for ever and a day! The book is running out at 104,000 word count and I have the last 60 pages still to do. I've been at it all week, and find I can only do it in relatively short snatches otherwise I start "reading" instead of "checking." Maybe I'll think about paying someone to do it next time. It is not a job I would like to do day in and day out.

The other thing is the temptation to keep on tinkering and phrasing things differently - I hope, in a better and more pleasing way. Once I get this portion of the work done, I will have to think about covers, and for Createspace I need not only a front cover, but a spine and back cover too. Another learning curve to master, and my deadline approaches with a steady beat. I don't think I need a list of chapters formatted for searching, as you do with Kindle, because in a print book that's not possible. I am thinking about including a simple map of the main places. It's OK for me since I live in the area and know where Stirling and Dumbarton, Carlisle and Corbridge are, but  I can't expect everyone else to know.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Matho's progress

Final edit run through complete. One of the strange things I noted was my use of a certain phrase. I'm not going to say which phrase because then people will look for it and start counting when they read the book. Needless to say, I've removed some uses and changed others, so it should not be so noticeable now.

I'm so nervous about this that I keep hesitating about trying to load it on Createspace. What if I've missed something horrendous? Maybe I should do just one more run through, to be sure? We all know how correcting one phrase can shake two more loose somewhere in the manuscript and odd things keep happening as the computer tries to anticipate the word we want - and gets it wrong. But I could go on like this forever. So I've made the decision - I'm going to take the plunge very soon.

Autumn is creeping in and changing colours in the landscape. The days are still warm, up there in the 19s and 20s, but the nights are cold now. We've occasionally put the central heating on, and once or twice used the gas fire in the living room but on the whole we are fine. Our gas bill is going to be so much lower this year because we've used it so little.

All the good winter programmes are back on TV - Downton, Scott & Bailey, Strictly, Cilla. to mention but a few. Downton had better pick up its skirts and get going as the first two episodes have been a tad off the mark. Cora and her sickly sweet smile are flirting with Bricker the art critic, and Edith keeps visiting her love child and treating it rather like a doll. The child is going to get sick of that quite soon, I imagine. Cilla proved to be very good and Aneurin Barnard was a big surprise as Bobby Willis. He had played Richard III so woodenly in the White Queen that I despaired of him, but here he was all Liverpudlian and full on even if his dark roots kept showing.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Amazon and the first 3 chapters

There seems to be a lull in sales on Amazon. Initially I put it down to summer holidays, but now I'm beginning to wonder. We've had terrific weather, and reading tends to go by the board when everyone can get out and about and enjoy some much needed sunshine. And to be fair, here in the UK, we still have the sunshine and ridiculous temperatures for almost October. But I expected sales would have picked up by now, and they have not. If anything, they've declined still further.

Now it could be that I have not been promoting. I'll be the first to admit I haven't promoted anything for weeks. A quick look at my diary shows me that I haven't done more than a few spasmodic posts since June. So maybe it is my own fault. There is that one nasty review that appeared around early July. Could that have anything to do with it? Let's hope not!

There is also this new scheme Amazon has running, and I'm more than a little curious about it. My understanding is that people download anything free of charge and read up to 10% of the work before any payment is made to the author.

So that means  people can read the first three chapters (4,000 word count per chapter) of a 100,000 word count book. A tiny portion, you may think, though it seems much more if the word count is 80,000 or less. I wonder how long it took the author to write those words, and many people read those chapters and then decide they don't want to pay for the rest of it? I imagine many do. It doesn't matter how good the rest of the book is, if those first chapters haven't grabbed the reader by the throat, it is all over. I have downloaded a sample of a Mankell-Wallander book to see how it works as a reader.

It puts a hell of a lot of importance on the first three chapters. Remember how important they were to getting published the traditional way? Well, it seems to me that Amazon have just re-introduced the barrier we independent authors were so pleased to avoid! What do the rest of you think?

This is a link to a long, long article about Amazon I haven't had time to read yet, but looks good enough to go back to in the next day or two: